Top Prospects: Addison Russell, SS, A's

PHOENIX -- A's manager Bob Melvin is "as close as I can get" to ruling out top prospect Addison Russell as a player who could break camp with the big league club.

Oakland's future plans are very much dependent on its 2012 first-round Draft pick, but Russell, rated the No. 12 overall prospect by MLB.com, will not be rushed to join a crowded 2014 roster, no matter how well the shortstop performs in his second big league camp.

The A's have a proven shortstop signed through year's end in Jed Lowrie, and they also brought in the versatile Nick Punto this winter. Eric Sogard can play the position, too.

That is why Melvin is not even considering Russell as a candidate for his Opening Day roster at the moment.

"You never say never, if you have a rash of injuries," he said, "but we don't want to rush someone like that, even if he had an eye-opening spring. I think he needs to go through the process, and we are deep at the position with Punto here now, and we have several guys who can play at the position."

Russell turned 20 just last month, and it makes sense that the A's would like to maximize the number of years he remains under their control. They would get an extra year of that just by delaying his arrival this year, but even that is not guaranteed.

Russell spent most of last year with high Class A Advanced Stockton, batting .275/.377/.508 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs in 107 games for the Ports, before landing on Triple-A Sacramento's roster for three games at season's end.

He went 4-for-16 in six games in camp last year, not many months removed from his high school playing days, and he is expected to get an even longer look this time around.

"Last year it was designed to kind of get his feet wet and ease him in," Melvin said. "This year he's going to play some innings and get at-bats.

"We want him to just play. He's got the entire game, offensively, defensively, running. Just get the experience and just let him play. We're not going to try to throw too much at him. It's difficult enough when you're 20 years old, at big league camp, and then all of a sudden you get a little too much instruction. With him, we're just gonna let him play."

Gentry joins Crisp to yield speedy A's club

Outlook: Gentry remains steady, offers decent speed

PHOENIX -- With additional speed on his versatile roster following the offseason acquisition of Craig Gentry, A's manager Bob Melvin expects to use the running game more this year.

"Potentially, yeah. Obviously with Gentry here, that's a different dynamic," Melvin said Wednesday. "[Nick] Punto can run a bit, too. You may even see some more hit-and-runs this year with some of the players we have."

Gentry stole 55 bases in 65 attempts in just 292 games for the Rangers in a part-time role the past three years, one of several reasons the A's were glad to get him out of Texas.

"He's fearless like Coco [Crisp]," Melvin said. "He has a good idea of when to go, knows the pitchers, studies their moves, all those things that allow him to be confident once he gets in the game. And usually that kind of confidence stems from someone who plays every day, but he prepares himself as such that he's ready for any portion of the game, or any time you need him."

Crisp remains just as important to these plans. Oakland's leadoff man said when agreeing to a two-year extension at the beginning of the month that his legs were healthier this year and he expected to swipe more bags after totaling only 21 in 2013. That was his lowest mark since 2009, when he stole 13 bases with Kansas City.

From 2010-12, Crisp went 120-for-136 in stolen base attempts, allowing the A's to rely greatly on the running game. Last year, they ranked near the bottom third of teams in stolen bases with 74 and 11th in the American League. In turn, they relied on power and still finished third in the AL in runs scored (767).

Having both in play will only further generate offensive output, of course.

Crisp and Gentry, Melvin said, could be put to the test this spring by outfield prospect Billy Burns. The 5-foot-9 speedster, acquired from the Nationals for lefty Jerry Blevins, compiled 74 stolen bases in 81 tries in the Minors last year. He has 125 steals over three professional seasons and has been caught just 17 times.

"He's about as fast as you get," Melvin said. "I think we could have a nice little foot race. We've got some guys that'll be fun to watch on the bases."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Ryan Cook (shoulder) threw long toss from 105 feet on Wednesday and said he could be back on the mound throwing his first bullpen of the spring as early as the end of next week.

• With the club's first full-squad workout planned for Thursday, A's pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice at Papago Park. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Dan Straily are among those scheduled to take their turn on Thursday.

• Melvin on Wednesday was putting the final touches of his annual rah-rah speech he'll give to his team on Thursday morning.

"I'm working on it," he said, smiling. "It's as close as I'm gonna get at this point. I probably am going to repeat myself to an extent. Some of the issues I thought we needed to be more aware of going into last season will be prevalent again. There will be some redundancy, but I've got a few new tricks."

• New A's pitcher Joe Savery, who threw his first bullpen in front of his new employers Wednesday, will wear No. 50, Grant Balfour's old number.